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HUMANISTIC EDUCATION                  173


The principles underlying the practical endeavours of school-
masters like Hegius to make humanism the basis of education
were brought into clear light by Desiderius Erasmus (1466-
1536), the most famous man of letters and the most eminent
educational theorist of the early Sixteenth Century, Erasmus
was born in Rotterdam in 1466, the illegitimate son of a priest,
Geert, and a physician's daughter. After attending school
at- Gouda, he was sent at the age of nine to the school at Deventer,
where, as he tells us, he was mainly occupied memorizing foolish
Latin verses. He seems, however, to have made a beginning with
the learning of Greek, and probably got the first impulse to the
studies of his later life. Somewhat against his will he took orders
as a priest in 1492, but escaped the ordinary routine of his office
by becoming the private secretary of the Bishop of Cambrai.
With the financial help of the Bishop, he went to the university
of Paris to extend his knowledge of the classics and to study
theology; but unfortunately the college he attended was one of
those most devoted to scholastic learning, and his detestation of
the old studies, already pronounced, was made more intense.
In 1499 came the turning-point of his life. At the invitation of
Lord Mountjoy, a good friend and patron, he paid a brief visit
to England and made acquaintance with Linacre, Colet, Sir
Thomas More and others of the small but influential company
of English humanists, with whom he maintained a lifelong friend-
ship- The next six years were chiefly spent in Paris. Then in
1506 he succeeded in realizing the great desire of his heart by
getting to Italy, where he completed his mastery of Greek. On
the accession of Henry VIII to the English throne he returned
once more to England in the expectation that the young king
would fulfil the promise of his youth and become a great patron
of letters. He remained here for four years, during which he
assisted Dean Colet in the re-founding of St. Paul's School as
a humanistic centre and taught Greek and Divinity in the
university of Cambridge. Then, after three years' travelling, he
settled in Louvain from 1517 to 1521, and took a keen interest
in the establishment of the Collegium Trilingue in connection with
the university. But the outbreak of sectarian passion consequent
on the Reformation made it impossible for him to remain there,